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Mental Health America of Augusta discusses importance of normalizing conversations about mental health

The U.S. gymnast has withdrawn from the all-around competition in the Olympics in Tokyo to...
The U.S. gymnast has withdrawn from the all-around competition in the Olympics in Tokyo to focus on her mental well-being.
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 8:13 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - World champion gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the women’s team and individual all-around gymnastics competitions, citing mental heath concerns.

Athletes, like Biles, speaking up about their struggles helps to normalize the conversations about mental health within society, which experts say are so important.

“Over 26 percent of American adults have a diagnosable mental illness, and we see that a majority of people don’t receive treatment,” Bruce Blair, Executive Director of Mental Health America of Augusta, said.

He said having more conversations about mental health will decrease the stigma surrounding it.

“But then we’ve also got to be able to support people when they step up and they say, ‘Hey. I’m struggling.’ We’ve got to be able to get them connected to the resources that they need,” Blair said.

Knowing and listening to your body and mind can help you learn when it’s time to take a step back to focus on your mental health, he said.

“You’ve got to know your own body. You’ve got to know your own mind. As a society, we have to be OK saying it is OK for me to admit that I am not OK,” Blair said.

He added knowing when to take time to focus on your mental health will allow the rest of your life to function, even in critical moments like the Olympics. While Biles is a world champion, she’s also human.

“It’s always the right time to step up and speak out on mental health. It’s always the right time to step up and talk to somebody. It’s always the right time to begin to have those conversations and seek the help you ultimately need,” Blair said.

Blair explained that while mental health struggles may seem like it’s just nervousness, for a lot of people that nervousness turns into panic attacks, or not being able to sleep, and potentially into anxieties and disorders that impact one’s whole life.

“When it gets to that point, we need to take a step back. We need to say, ‘Hey, I need to focus on my mental health,” Blair said.

Mental Health America of Augusta has an online resource database that they use to help connect people to what they need. MHA also has an online mental health screening, which can be the first step in one’s mental health journey.

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